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Hand Problems after a Stroke

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily cut off, depriving the brain of oxygen. Depending on the severity of the stroke, the patient may experience numbness and weakness on one side of the body. Hand coordination and strength may be affected, but with time and rehabilitation, good hand function can often be restored.

Causes:
Many conditions and lifestyle choices contribute to the risk of having a stroke. High blood pressure is the highest risk factor. Other factors include
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of stroke
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Diet
  • Illegal drug abuse
  • Symptoms:
    There are many symptoms of stroke, but for this article focusing on the hand, symptoms may include
  • Muscle weakness in the arm and hand, usually just on one side of the body
  • Numbness or tingling, usually just on one side of the body
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty in holding objects
  • Diagnosis:
    A stroke is a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any stroke symptoms. Early treatment is crucial to recovery.

    Diagnostic techniques for stroke include angiogram, CT, ultrasound, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), and lab tests.

    Treatment:
    If you have been diagnosed as having suffered a stroke you will have been given the appropriate treatment in hospital. Various therapies, depending on your specific needs, will also have been started to begin the rehabilitation process.

    You will be encouraged to perform finger and hand exercises to develop good coordination. This takes time and patience, because the problem lies not in the muscles of your hand, but within the brain. When you do the exercises you are retraining your brain. Be patient with yourself.

    Exercises:

    Finger Extension:
    Place the palm of your hand flat on a table, with your fingers straight. In turn, lift each finger straight up, holding for 5 seconds before lowering. Do 10 times, 3-5 times a day.

    Finger Stretch:
    Place the palm of your hand flat on a table. Spread out your fingers as far apart as you can, then bring them together again. Do 10 times, 3-5 times a day.

    Finger O:
    Touch the tip of each finger, in turn, to the tip of your thumb. Concentrate on getting each finger to work individually.

    Thumb Slide:
    Lift your hand with your palm facing inward. Slide your thumb against your palm, toward your little finger, and bend your thumb at the base to maximize the stretch. Then lift your thumb straight up toward the ceiling as high as it will go. Now bring it to rest against your index finger and then move it sideways, as though trying to make an ‘L’ shape. Rest and repeat.

    Pick-Up:
    Choose about 5 or 6 objects ranging in size from a tennis ball to a button or pin. Starting with the largest object, pick it up. Then pick up the next in size, working your way to the smallest. Even if you can’t pick up the smaller objects to begin with, with time you will.

    Grip Strength:
    Squeeze a soft rubber ball and hold the squeeze for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times for 1 set. Do 2 sets, 3-5 times a day.

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